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India, US reach pact on military intelligence

India, US reach pact on military intelligence

Author: Deepak K. Upreti
Publication: The Deccan Herald
Date: November 30, 2001

Indraprasth, Nov 29 (DH News Service) - In a major policy decision India, for the first time, has agreed to exchange military intelligence (MI) with US with both the countries agreeing to work out contours of the co- operation in future meetings.

According to highly placed sources, the sensitive decision on the mutual exchange of MI with the US was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security after a series of meetings between defence and external affairs ministries. To elaborate the concept of co-operation a joint Indo-US Defence Policy Group is to meet here next month with US Undersecretary of State for Defence Douglas J Feith heading the US team. The ground work for the November meet has already been initiated in the on-going visit of Admiral Dennis C Blair, chief of the US Pacific Command. The high level Indo-US political and official delegations have during the last one month deliberated on possible features of military co-operation including naval protection for US ships in the Indian ocean, training facilities for American troops, port visits and ship repair facilities and logistic support to the US navy but a full agreement was not reached on these issues with India having reservations on account of various security and political concerns.

But India has agreed to co-operate with the US in the field of MI which would virtually expose closely guarded Indian secrets including those relating to nuclear installations to the scrutiny of the US from point blank range. The FBI already has a makeshift office in the US embassy to exchange intelligence with India on criminals, drug trafficking and terrorists. Sharing of intelligence could "seriously compromise" Indian security with US digging deep into the Indian security system and establishing its own "loyal band" in the Indian military establishment as it did in Pakistan, said a top army official and pointed to the vulnerability of Indian defence officials quoting the infamous Tehelka incident.

-From the US point of view the MI co-operation would strengthen its information network in South and West Asia and with a little prompting it could elicit key intelligence from India, facilitating military operations in the region.

The September 11 terrorist strikes in New York and Washington severely shook the US intelligence agencies which obviously failed to anticipate or gear up to challenges thrown by the terrorist mastermind Bin Laden and his network Al Qaida.

The fact that the terrorists remained a step ahead of American intelligence rudely awakened the US to its glaring lack of "human intelligence" on account of heavy reliance on technology. In the aftermath of American retaliatory action in Afghanistan, US has sought to make India its key military partner which could work as an effective bulwark against "Jehadi" forces in South and West Asia and keep a close eye on Chinese manoeuvring in the region. Besides, the envisaged strategic defence co- operation could provide the US a shorter sea route to military bases in Japan.

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